I am the mother of a three year old. A very THREE three year old. Two wasn’t so bad and Stella is a pretty sweet kid as far as kids go but man oh man, three has been kicking my tush. The temper, the impatience, the whining…you get it. I know you parents out there are nodding your heads in agreement, and if you’re not, I’m going to guess you haven’t had a three year old yet!
How many times have I said to myself, “Jeez, I wish Stella would be more mellow,” or “Argh, this kid needs to get it together!” It’s kind of comical now that I’m typing it out. The idea of trying to make a three year old be anything other than herself is an exercise in futility, and not healthy, to boot.
So, when I saw the title of Nancy Rose’s book, I said “cha-ching! That is my problem–I’m not meeting Stella where she is!” It’s funny because as a teacher, the mantra was always “meet the kids where they are and take them where you want them to go” but somehow, I’d forgotten about that with my own children.
Today, Nancy Rose is stopping by with some answers to questions I posed for her. Check out the book tour schedule at the bottom of this post for an opportunity to win her book in a giveaway!
Before I get to the Q&A with Nancy Rose, check out this clip from The Today Show:
A big thank you to Nancy for answering these questions for me! If you’d like to connect with Nancy, her information follows at the bottom.
Q: What do you say to parents who, even after reading your book, insist “but I know what’s best for my child!”?
A: Leading with acceptance doesn’t mean that parents don’t know what’s best for their
children. We do know what’s best for them when it comes to their BEHAVIOR.
It’s a good thing we do, too, because as parents, we need to be leaders who guide our
kids’ behavior. For example, your two year old fights you about holding his hand while
crossing a busy street. You know what’s best for him (staying safe by the BEHAVIOR of
holding your hand).
But, we don’t know what’s best for them when it comes to WHO THEY ARE. We can’t
change certain traits and preferences and we can do great harm if we try to. If your two
year old melts down when you require him to hold your hand while crossing, you can’t
make him less intense by saying, “Why do you always have to make such a big deal out
of it?” (trying to get him to be more like his mellow sister).
Q: How do we strike a balance between being emotionally present for our children and taking care of our needs? Sometimes, we just really need to make a phone call!
A: Emotional presence means being able to handle the full range of your child’s emotions,
including the difficult ones. One part of being emotionally present is giving time and
undivided attention, but not 24/7 (this does not apply to infants.) It does not mean
centering everything around your child and putting your needs last. Children thrive when
they know they are part of something bigger than themselves, and it’s important for
them to learn that they are not the center of the universe, or even of the family. They are
a “citizen of the family” just like every other family member, and everyone’s needs are
Q: My friend is in the middle of a food battle with her three year old. At what point should she say, “enough is enough” and be more forceful in encouraging her daughter to accept more variety in her diet?
A: It’s hard to respond without knowing more details, but I can share this about food
battles: just like other “hotspots” in the parent-child relationship, it is useful to use
leading with acceptance to determine what part of the conflict is due to the CoreSelf of
the child and what part is due to behavior. This technique is explained in Chapter 6 of
A picky eater may have low Adaptability, low Ease with the Unfamiliar, high Regularity,
and/or high Sensory Reactivity. Let’s assume that this child is reluctant to try new things
in general (low Ease with the Unfamiliar). The parents should accept this trait. Here’s
how they might lead with acceptance: “Sweetie, I understand that trying new foods
isn’t easy for you. At the same time, it’s my job as your mommy to make sure you stay
healthy and strong. Maybe you and I could look at pictures of food together and you
can pick out some things that look yummy enough to try sometime.” Contrast that with
power struggles, which are so easy to fall into, or criticism of the child for being “too
picky,” or begging or bribing the child to eat.
Q: My husband works at Yale, and if my children were to be accepted into Yale, their
college education would be free. How do I resist the impulse to push them towards
wanting to go to Yale? Should I resist it?
A: Very interesting question. 🙂 It’s natural to want to take advantage of such an incredible
benefit! That said, if the expectation is that your kids go to Yale, you’re asking for
trouble, so I would resist the impulse to push them. I would, however, have honest
dialogue in the family, once the kids are old enough, explaining the situation and letting
them know that it could be a huge win/win for everyone…IF IT IS THEIR CHOSEN